Tag Archives: house of commons

Indicative votes open thread

So how did Liberal Democrat MPs vote in the indicative votes taking place tonight.

What’s on offer?

There’s C – Ken Clarke’s customs union, sponsored by Norman Lamb but most Lib Dem MPs will abstain. Wera Hobhouse voted against last week.

D – Nick Boles’ Common Market 2.0, again sponsored by Norman Lamb. Ours are expected to abstain because it, like C, is implemented by 22 May without a confirmatory referendum.

E – The Kyle/Wilson/Beckett confirmatory referendum one. All ours should be voting for this

G – Joanna Cherry/s and Dominic Grieve’s brilliant amendment which could have been written by Cambridge Lib Dem activist Sarah Brown. Two years ago, she suggested revoking Article 50 and having a conversation about where we wanted to go as a nation. Grieve and Cherry suggest an inquiry into the Brexit process. That could certainly highlight the extent of the Vote Leave law breaking and find solutions to the problems that made people vote leave. Norman Lamb abstained on the similar amendment last week but the others should all vote for it.

What have our MPs said about their votes?

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Indicative votes – where do they leave us?

Embed from Getty Images

The Guardian has a breakdown of the indicative votes last night, and a tool so that you can find out how your MP voted.

First of all, the indicative vote process is very much to be welcomed. It should have happened a lot earlier and been repeated at regular intervals IMHO.

We are seeing a preferential voting system of sorts here – there will hopefully be a further “second round” process next Monday.

Last night’s vote showed the Customs Union and the People’s Vote option emerging as front-runners. I think we can be optimistic that this is the beginning of a positive process.

Yesterday we had Steve Baker, from the Conservative European Reform Group, saying:

I could tear this place down and bulldoze it into the river. These fools and knaves and cowards are voting on things they don’t even understand.

The problem is that he can’t have it both ways. People who want to “take back control” from the EU, need to decide what they want. They either want a Parliamentary Representative Democracy where the people elect representatives who then study the issues and decide upon them. Or they want a Swiss system of frequent, often repetitive plebescites. If Steve Baker wants to bulldoze parliament, what does he want in its place?

Vince Cable has provided a succinct summary of the situation now, describing last night as “A big win”:

Last night, the House of Commons predictably failed to alight on a single way forward on Brexit – but the centre of gravity is a lot clearer than it was.

A record 268 MPs voted with the Liberal Democrats for a people’s vote. This was the most popular vote of the night and got more votes than the Prime Minister’s deal has ever got.

While no proposal commanded a majority, the largest support is for a People’s Vote.

And we discovered yesterday that Theresa May is, at last, accepting the inevitable by preparing to leave office. Her dogged attempts to “deliver Brexit” – with Jeremy Corbyn’s help – have cost her her job.

Yet the Prime Minister nonetheless appears to be planning to make one final attempt at securing her deal tomorrow.

The fact she thinks she could have a chance of winning demonstrates the cynicism of her opponents in the Tory Party. Until very recently they were telling us – as an absolute principle – that they could not support her deal under any circumstances.

They now fear Brexit is at risk.

And they are right.

After three years of campaigning, public opinion has decisively moved in favour of remaining in the EU, with 60% indicating they would support staying in the EU in a new referendum, nearly 6 million demanding revocation of Article 50, and more than a million marching with us last weekend.

It is absolutely crucial that we keep campaigning and keep the pressure up on MPs in other parties to support us.

It is clearer than ever is that however, the Government proceeds the public must have the final say.

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When will Commons drag itself into this century?

It’s horrifying to think that an MP has been forced to delay her caesarean section in order to vote on the Brexit deal tomorrow.

Hampstead and Kilburn’s Tulip Siddiq told The Standard

If my son enters the world even one day later than the doctors advised, but it’s a world with a better chance of a strong relationship between Britain and Europe, then that’s worth fighting for.”

The Royal Free has been very clear on their legal and health duties. This is a high risk pregnancy and I am doing this against doctor’s advice.

Any idea that a pairing arrangement would be honoured was blown apart by Brandon Lewis’s failure to honour the agreement with Jo Swinson when her baby Gabriel was just weeks old last Summer.

People were also horrified to see Labour MP Naz Shah, who was sick and in pain, wheeled through the voting lobby.

There is a much more humane way of doing this – allowing MPs who are incapacitated in some way to cast their votes by proxy. Nobody should have to be taken to their place of work by ambulance to perform part of their duties.

Jo Swinson made it clear how she felt about the situation:

You have to wonder if they’d have been swifter to act if any of the babies due had been pm their side.

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Leadsom, Lewis and Smith in trouble over Jo Swinson pairing scandal

Remember when the Tories cheated in order to win the tight vote in Parliament, just like Vote Leave cheated to win the EU Referendum?

Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis, paired with Jo Swinson who was at home with her two week old baby, should not have voted on Tuesday night. He honoured that in the first few, but in the really crucial ones, on the European Medicines Agency (which the Government lost) and the customs union, (which the Government narrowly won), he cast his vote. Now, had he voted in the earlier divisions, Alistair Carmichael, our Chief Whip, might have noticed …

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All the best, Jo…

This afternoon, MPs who really shouldn’t have been in the House of Commons, either through very advanced pregnancy or serious illness, had to go in and vote on that Brexit amendment.

One of them was our Jo Swinson, who is two days past her due date with her second baby. It is entirely unsurprising that she made it in to vote. Anyone who knows how committed and determined she is will know that unless she was in fairly advanced labour, she would made it. She still deserves respect for doing so. Most women have stopped going into the office …

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EU Withdrawal Bill: This isn’t over yet

Anyone feeling a bit jaded after today’s events in Parliament?

I mean, honestly, you have at the start of the day a very smug Arron Banks blithely telling anyone who would listen that Leave.EU “led people up the garden path” (that’s lied to you and I).

A few hours later, at the other side of the Parliamentary Estate, MPs fail to adequately hold the Government to account on their atrocious, democracy-undermining, devolution-busting disaster of an EU Withdrawal Bill.

The day had started quite promisingly with the resignation of a Government Minister who then proceeded to buy the Govenrment’s concession and abstained …

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Jamie Stone’s identity likely “stolen by a drug dealer in Manchester”

In a debate on cyber security this week, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone talked of his shock at receiving a letter threatening him with a fine and points on his licence for a traffic accident in Greater Manchester.

This is how it all unfolded. The Speaker started it off:

Order. The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) has just sent me a most gracious letter of apology in respect of a matter for which he has no reason whatsoever to apologise. I think we ought to hear the fella.

Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

I received a letter last week from Greater Manchester police that informed me that on 18 April I was involved in a vehicle collision in Salford and that, if I am convicted, I will face a fine of £1,000 and get six points on my licence. As many Members will testify, I was in this place on 18 April. This is a clear example of identity theft. Greater Manchester police have been most helpful and told me that it is likely that a drug dealer in Manchester has stolen my identity. You will be interested to know, Mr Speaker, that he has put down my occupation as “cobbler”. I would be interested to know what the Minister has to say.

Mr Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has got his point on the record with considerable alacrity.

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Janet Fookes’ winning ways – and they had nothing to do with her red hair!

Last week on t’internet, a toe-curling interview from 1970 (above) was doing the rounds.

It featured a newly elected MP speaking on the BBC election night TV programme.

Nothing unusual about that, except that it was – GASP! – a woman MP!!!!!!!

The behaviour, during and after the appearance of Janet Fookes, of Robin Day and Cliff Michelmore gave whole new meaning to the word “patronising”.

So I thought it would be a good idea to balance things out.

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WATCH: Tom Brake’s speech in Brexit Bill debate: This Bill must be resisted at every turn

Tom Brake spoke for the Lib Dems in the Commons debate on the Brexit Bill today. Watch in full here. The text is below.

There were some excellent speeches after the Secretary of State’s. Things went slight downhill after that but things started to look up with the maiden speech by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield). I have just one slight criticism: she did not mention Barham in her list of villages, which is one I know very well. I thank the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) for his speech and his reference to the monstrosity that is this Bill.

The Liberal Democrats believe that Parliament must be given comprehensive sovereignty and scrutiny over this process. This opinion is widely supported, not just by many Members on both sides of this House but organisations such as the Law Society, which states that the Bill

“must respect parliament’s role in making and approving changes to UK law”.

Parliament must drive the future of the United Kingdom and of Brexit, not Ministers using executive—indeed dictatorial—powers to exercise total control over the legislative process. The Government’s decision to provide just two days for Second Reading means that Members will have just five minutes in which to make their points and eight days in Committee for a Bill that unravels 40 years of closer EU co-operation, shows the extent to which Parliament is held in contempt by Ministers.

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Tom Brake’s quiet revolution – but there’s so much more that should change about the Commons

Tom Brake achieved a bit of a baby step towards the 21st Century for MPs this week when he had the audacity to ask a Minister a question while not wearing a tie. Heaven forfend!

Conservative MP Peter Bone grassed him up to the Speaker and asked if the rules had changed. John Bercow replied that as long as the attire was “business-like” it was fine. No tie was necessary.

 So far as the Chair is concerned, I must say to the hon. Gentleman, although I fear this will gravely disquiet him, that it seems to me that as long as a Member arrives in the House in what might be thought to be business-like attire, the question of whether that Member is wearing a tie is not absolutely front and centre stage. So am I minded not to call a Member simply because that Member is not wearing a tie? No. I think there has always been some discretion for the Chair to decide what is seemly and proper. Members should not behave in a way that is disrespectful of their colleagues or of the institution, but do I think it is essential that a Member wears a tie? No. Opinions on the hon. Gentleman’s choice of ties do tend to vary, and it has to be said that the same could be said of my own.

This is of course not the first time that Lib Dem MPs have been at the forefront of such change. It was Duncan Hames who took his baby son through the division lobby back in 2014.

So that’s all well and good, but what about addressing some of the bigger issues about the way the Commons operates? There is so much else that needs to change to bring the Parliament closer to the people. Anyone watching the proceedings for the first time would not feel that they had any relevance in the real world.

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Kenneth Clarke’s speech in the Article 50 debate

Today, MPs began debating amendments to the Government’s White Paper entitled “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union” in the Committee stage. We publish this speech from Kenneth Clarke (from last week’s Article 50 Commons debate) in the hope of putting some “backbone” (Alistair Campbell‘s word) into MPs as they contemplate a national cordless bungee jump into a dark abyss.

We don’t normally publish speeches by Conservatives, but this one has a particularly good section about Alice in Wonderland, and an excellent ending, referring to Burke:

I am very fortunate to be called this early. I apologise to my right hon. Friend—my old friend—but 93 other Members are still waiting to be called, so if he will forgive me, I will not give way.

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Tom Brake’s speech in the Article 50 debate

The final Liberal Democrat contribution in the Article 50 debate came from Tom Brake. We have published all the others as it is important for us all to be aware of what our MPs did and said on this most momentous of decisions.

I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that the decision that the country took on 23 June will result in the biggest self-inflicted wound since our disastrous intervention in Iraq. That wound is festering and it will leave the UK permanently economically weaker, even after it has healed. I believe that, when Members of Parliament believe that a course of action is going to be a catastrophe, they have a duty to harry, assail and oppose the Government, not to acquiesce.

I respect those who voted to leave. They had, and have, genuine grievances about a lack of jobs or education prospects, and concerns about the changes they see in our society, including concerns about immigration. The Brexiteers claimed that leaving the EU would address those concerns by stopping the cancellation of urgent hospital operations—paid for, presumably, by the tsunami of cash that was going to come to the NHS post-Brexit—improving teacher shortages in our schools and boosting housing supply. It will not do any of those things. In fact, it will make them worse. I doubt that even the leave campaign’s most prominent pledge, to reduce immigration substantially, will be achieved. Why would it be? After all, the Prime Minister has spent many years seeking to reduce the level of non-EU immigration, and nothing changed there.

What leaving the EU will do with certainty is diminish us as a nation and reduce our influence and international standing. That has already happened. Brexit has forced our Prime Minister, a born-again hard-line Brexiteer, to line up with Trump—indeed, to walk hand in hand with him. While European leaders and Canada condemned his Muslim ban, our Prime Minister’s initial response was to say, “Not my business.” Worse, she immediately offered him, with indecent haste, a state visit—far quicker than any other US President—which I am sure had absolutely nothing to do with her desperation to secure a trade deal, any deal, with the protectionist Trump.

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ICYMI: Sarah Olney’s speech in the Article 50 debate: We can’t build country without fear & poverty by turning our back on our neighbours

When I think of the country that I would like my generation to give to our children, I think of a country that lives without fear, poverty and inequality, but we cannot build that world by turning our back on our neighbours, closing the door to our friends, turning a blind eye to tyranny or walking hand in hand with intolerance.

Sarah Olney has got the hang of making great speeches in the House of Commons pretty quickly. In the Article 50 debate, she spoke from the heart while revealing the obfuscation of the Government as they try to deny people the true information about the consequences of Brexit. Here is her speech in full:

In this country, we have settled, through a process of trial and error, on a system of parliamentary democracy as the most effective form of governance. The importance of Parliament’s role was once again asserted by the Supreme Court last week. The responsibility of parliamentarians is clear: to take decisions in the best interests of the country with particular regard for the needs of their constituents. I believe that leaving the European Union will be hugely damaging for this country; the British people, through the referendum, narrowly expressed a different view. It is now up to Parliament to take account of the result of the referendum and decide what is in the best interests of the country.

There is no evidence, and none has been presented, that the best interests of the country will be served by the immediate triggering of article 50 and the pursuit of the hardest Brexit possible. It seems to me an abdication of responsibility to say that the only factor that can be considered in deciding whether to trigger article 50 is the result of the referendum. “The will of the people” cannot be tied down to one single point and be presumed never to change or waver. It should not be assumed that the decision of a narrow majority of people, willing and entitled to express a view on 23 June, should be the only thing to determine the fate of the whole population for now and many decades into the future. This is not the end of the debate; it is only the beginning.

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In full: Tim Farron’s speech in the Article 50 debate

Tim Farron spoke in the Commons debate on Article 50 this afternoon. Here is his speech in full:

She is not in her place now, but I want to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson) for her excellent maiden speech.

Liberal Democrats have always been proud internationalists. It was the Liberals who backed Winston Churchill’s European vision in the 1950s, even when his own party did not do so. Since our foundation, we have been champions of Britain’s role in the European Union and fought for co-operation and openness with our neighbours and with our allies. We have always believed that the challenges that Britain faces in the 21st century—climate change, terrorism and economic instability—are best tackled working together as a member of the European Union.

Being proud Europeans is part of our identity as a party, and it is part of my personal identity too. Personally, I was utterly gutted by the result. Some on the centre left are squeamish about patriotism; I am not. I am very proud of my identity as a northerner, as an Englishman, as a Brit, and as a European—all those things are consistent. My identity did not change on 24 June, and neither did my values, my beliefs, or what I believe is right for this country and for future generations. I respect the outcome of the referendum. The vote was clear—close, but clear—and I accept it.

But voting for departure is not the same as voting for a destination. Yes, a narrow majority voted to leave the EU, but the leave campaign had no plans, no instructions, no prospectus and no vision. No one in this Government, no one in this House and no one in this country has any idea of what the deal the Prime Minister will negotiate with Europe will be—it is completely unknown. How, then, can anyone pretend that this undiscussed, unwritten, un-negotiated deal in any way has the backing of the British people? The deal must be put to the British people for them to have their say. That is the only way to hold the Government to account for the monumental decisions they will have to take over the next two years.

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ICYMI: Nick Clegg’s brilliant speech on Article 50 Bill

I am so proud of Nick Clegg who made one of the speeches of his life, and one of the best I have ever heard in Parliament, in the Article 50 Bill yesterday. You would hope that such a momentous decision would bring out the best in our MPs.  It certainly did for Nick whose oratory was mature, passionate, honest and searingly critical of a Government acting in its party’s, not the national interest, Watch it here.

The full text, including the interventions, is below:

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Parliament is going to have to do better than today

What a depressing spectacle we witnessed in the House of Commons today.

A government which had just had a kicking from the Supreme Court for trying to do something unconstitutional should have been subdued and its representatives should have had their tails between their legs. But why should it, when its main opposition party lay prostrate in front of it.

Rather than look sheepish, David Davis was smug.

It should be so different. We should be building up to a dramatic parliamentary occasion. Gavin Williamson, the Government Chief Whip, shouldn’t be able to sleep at night because he’s worried about whether votes will be won. As it is, he could spend the next couple of weeks lying on the sofa with a beer watching re-runs of The Thick of It.

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Nick Clegg challenges David Davis over Brexit

Nick Clegg has had a right go at David Davis over the lack of Parliamentary Scrutiny over Brexit. He questioned after Davis made a statement to the Commons.

From the BBC:

Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, now his party’s EU spokesman, says the Commons has a “rightful role of scrutiny”.

David Davis suggests that Mr Clegg “cannot tell the difference between scrutiny and micro-management” – to some degree of uproar in the House.

Labour MP Angela Eagle says this is “the first time I’ve ever heard Parliamentary sovereignty described as micro-management”.

His intervention was well received:

Afterwards, Nick tweeted:

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Farron: PM must clear up David Davis’s single market mess

Yesterday, Brexit Secretary David Davis made his first parliamentary statement since his appointment and it didn’t reveal very much. Our EU spokesperson was not impressed:

Paul Walter found some cause for optimism but there were also some very worrying aspects.of his answers to questions from 85 backbenchers.

He stated that full access to the single market was “very improbable.”

I am saying that this Government are looking at every option, but the simple truth is that if a requirement of membership is giving up control of our borders, then I think that makes that very improbable.

Tim Farron has written to Theresa May to ask her to clarify exactly what he meant. Is the Government actually giving up on the single market before we even start? If so, that is a real disaster for the country.

Tim said:

David Davis yesterday seemed to rule out membership of the single market for access, in a statement, from the government, at the dispatch box.  I know it has been a while since he was on the front bench and he might be rusty but these things matter.

The public need to know if ideological zeal is threatening our economic security.  It is time for the Prime Minister to step in and clear up the mess.

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WATCH: In full: Tim Farron on the Queen’s Speech

Here is Tim Farron’s speech in full from the Queen’s Speech debate. He cracks some pretty decent jokes, maybe a couple that aren’t quite as funny, and sets out what we would have done differently.

He also took time to pay tribute to David Rendel.

The text follows.

Mr Speaker, may I first start by commending the Honourable Member for Meriden and the Honourable Member for Bracknell for the grace and humour with which they moved and seconded the humble address.

These occasions often show the House at its best and its worst and I think we would all agree that their speeches were examples of the former.

And as the Prime Minister did, may I pay tribute to Harry Harpham and Michael Meacher whose contributions here will be missed.

Can I also take this opportunity to remember my former colleague, David Rendel, who died just this week, and whose by-election victory was transformational to the fortunes of our party.

Those of us who knew him will remember his phenomenal hard work and absolute commitment to the people of Newbury that continued long after he ceased to be the Member of Parliament. He will be sadly missed by many of us.

Spaceport
Mr Speaker, may I start by saying I was most excited to learn that the Modern Transport Bill will enable the development of the UK’s first commercial spaceports, just like Mos Eisley, the spaceport in Star Wars.

I don’t know what inspired the Prime Minister to invest in something that Obi Wan Kenobi said was ‘no greater hive of scum and villainy’… But I’m sure it was definitely… probably… nothing to do with the emergence of the Leave Campaign whatsoever.

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When the Minister didn’t quite get Alistair Carmichael’s sarcasm…

This week, Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael  put down an Urgent Question to the Home Secretary after she all too casually said that the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s clear that ,whatever the result of the Referendum, the Tories are desperate to have a big bonfire of all of our most basic rights. What they could object to about things like the right to privacy and freedom of expression is beyond me.

Anyway, Theresa May didn’t bother to turn up to face Alistair. She sent Attorney General Jeremy Wright instead. He didn’t really answer her question, prompting Alistair to say:

I am grateful to the Attorney General for that answer. I should make it clear that I hold him in the very highest regard; I enjoyed working with him as a Minister in the previous Government. But he is not the Home Secretary, and he should not be responding to the urgent question today. The Home Secretary was the one who could make the speech yesterday and she can, apparently, come and make a statement tomorrow. She should be here today. Yesterday she went rogue; today she has gone missing.

There is total confusion at the heart of Government policy. What the Attorney General has just said at the Dispatch Box contradicts clearly what has been said previously. Yesterday the Home Secretary said:

The ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights. So regardless of the EU referendum, my view is this: if we want to reform human rights laws in this country, it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court.”

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Farron: Government has dishonoured Britain’s humanitarian legacy

The Commons had the chance to help 3000 of the most vulnerable children on the planet tonight, children who are currently trapped in refugee camps in Europe.

It was close – only 18 votes in it. The opposition came heartbreakingly close to winning the vote. I feel utterly disgusted at the 294 MPs who supported the Government’s position.

Tim Farron was equally unimpressed:

The Lords has the chance to reinstate this amendment tomorrow. Let’s hope that they take it. Lib Dem Lords will all be voting for it. Baroness Meral Ece said on Twitter tonight:

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Is being an MP a rubbish job?

Nigel Morris in the i reports:

Lonely MPs are finding it almost impossible to balance their jobs with ordinary family life, according to a survey of politicians who quit Parliament at last year’s election.

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

Boundary Review is a cynical calculation 

House of Commons. Crown Copyright applies to this photo - http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/4642915654/

Reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 without also looking to cut ministers and a review of the House of Lords means the boundary review is being conducted on a fatally flawed basis.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Constitutional and Political Reform Paul Tyler said: 

This boundary review is being conducted on a fatally flawed basis. The Conservatives have knocked 2 million people office the electoral register, mainly in densely populated areas, as part of a cynical calculation that the boundary review will produce fewer urban, Conservative-hostile constituencies.

Reducing the number of MPs without also reducing the size of the Executive is a mistake. With the pay-roll vote approaching half the membership of the government side of the Commons, the power of government to control Parliament is increased. And with no prospect of democratic reform of the Lords, we are edging towards a dangerous lack of democratic legitimacy in parliament.

The Conservatives are blatantly attempting to fix the system to keep themselves in power.

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Action needed on bullying in the workplace

Seriously, what is the world coming to when in the Mother of Parliaments, the most powerful politician in the country invokes his own mother to castigate the Leader of the Opposition.

Here’s their exchange:

The Prime Minister: I am very proud of the NHS in Oxfordshire and everyone who works in it. Having met the head of the Oxford Radcliffe trust recently, I know that he supports the move towards more seven-day services. That is absolutely vital.

Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab): Ask your mother!

The Prime Minister: Ask my mother? I know what my mother would say. She would look across the Dispatch Box and say, “Put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem.”

Jeremy Corbyn: If we are talking of motherly advice, my late mother would have said, “Stand up for the principle of a health service free at the point of use for everybody.” That is what she dedicated her life to, as did many of her generation.

Corbyn comes out of this with some credit, but this rather personal criticism comes from the Prime Minister comes just two days after the Commons collapsed in hilarity over a Tory MP’s jibe.

Corbyn heckled during EU debate“Who are you?”A Conservative MP berates Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons during EU debate.

Posted by Channel 4 News on Monday, 22 February 2016

Labour MPs are more than capable of being just as rowdy. Remember what they used to do to Julian Huppert every time he got up to speak. I’ll never forget the time when Willie Rennie was called a “Scottish Git” by Tory MPs while a Labour frontbencher smirked. He was introducing a bill enabling driving instructors to be suspended from the national register and explaining how he’d been motivated to do so by his constituent’s experience of being sexually assaulted by her driving instructor.

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Farron: Britain deserves better than Tory MPs fighting like rats in a sack

Tim Farron has missed Cameron’s “Deal or no deal” performance today as he’s been away in Manchester and Edinburgh, but he’s been keeping an eye on developments. This is what he had to say:

The Prime Minister’s draft deal means the first stage of the campaign to keep Britain at the heart of Europe and global affairs is complete. Now, the Liberal Democrats will play a leading role in working and campaigning to deliver a ‘Remain’ result that will safeguard our economy.

Next Wednesday we will be launching our Liberal Democrat campaign to keep Britain in Europe. Our unity contrasts with the Tories.

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Farron’s response to principle of banning Trump is right in principle but…

Tomorrow, Parliament debates whether Donald Trump should be excluded from the UK. MPs are doing this because getting on for 600,000 people signed an official e-petition calling for him to be banned from the UK after his appalling anti-Muslim comments. We’ve talked about this on LDV before. In December, I said that he should be allowed to come here:

Much as I understand that people are repelled by his views, there is a certain irony in them responding to his ignorant call to ban a group of people with a call to ban him.

I have less than no time for the man. Hell, he called a friend of mine who had the temerity to question his plans for his golf course a “national disgrace, scoundrel and extremist”. However, I was never comfortable with the idea of “no platform” because I think that sweeping prejudice under the carpet doesn’t get rid of it. It finds oxygen from somewhere and lurks there, waiting or an opportunity to re-emerge and spread even more intensified hate. When people express views like Trump’s, they need to be challenged, satirised and shown up for the nonsense that they are.

I’d love to see the likes of Lynne Featherstone, Shirley Williams, Jo Brand, Tim Farron or his new mate Russell Howard take him down with carefully chosen words. In that way, they can also challenge similar views held by those who aren’t quite as rich and powerful as The Donald.

I didn’t, therefore, sign the petition, but Millicent Ragnhild Scott did, not because she wanted to see him banned, but because she wanted Parliament to debate what he’d said to show that we reject his poisonous ideas:

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Tim Farron questions Cameron on Syria

Here’s the exchange between Tim Farron and David Cameron from today’s debate on Syria. Tim asked about safe havens to protect the innocent civilians who are trapped there and about the role of other countries in the region in helping the forces on the ground. It was a civilised exchange. The Prime Minister was on his best behaviour today.

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and for early sight of it. There are understandable knee-jerk reactions on both sides to the horror of Paris and of Beirut. There will be those who say, “Intervene”; those who say, “Intervene at all costs”; and also those who say, “Do not intervene no matter what the evidence points to.” The Prime Minister knows that the Liberal Democrats have set out five criteria against which we can judge this statement. On that basis, may I press him on two particular points? The Prime Minister recognises that air strikes alone will not defeat ISIL. He has already heard that he will need to give much more evidence to this House to convince it that the ground operations that are there are sufficient and have the capability and the credibility to deliver on the ground, which is what he knows needs to be delivered. What role will Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the other Gulf states play in delivering this victory, if that is the direction in which we choose to go as a country and as a House? There is also a reference to humanitarian aid in this statement. He will know that no amount of aid can help an innocent family dodge a bomb. There is no reference in this statement to establishing no-bomb zones or safe havens to protect innocent civilians if this action takes place. Will he answer that question?

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So why shouldn’t MPs breastfeed in the House of Commons?

There was a very sensible debate on the family friendliness or otherwise of the House of Commons earlier this week. The press seems to have latched on (sorry) to the issue of whether women MPs should be allowed to breastfeed their babies in the Commons chamber itself, although the debate was much more wide ranging – and we’ll have more about those other aspects later.

The debate was brought by Jess Phillips ,the MP for Birmingham Yardley who recently took such a battering on Twitter for daring to suggest that Parliament might have more important priorities than have a special debate for International Men’s Day. The irony of her being the only woman on the Committee that decides Commons business was not lost on many people.

At any debate on these issues, you get the odd Tory turning up whose only purpose seems to be to make themselves look ridiculous and to basically troll the proceedings. On this occasion it was Sir Simon Burns, the MP for Chelmsford. Early in the proceedings he suggested that the House of Commons did not have an overwhelming majority of white men when asked by fellow Conservative Maria Miller:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 17 Comments

Read my lips: No seat reduction

I just got back from two days at the Conference in Bournemouth. The absence of discussion of strategy was deafening. However, no less than three people either said to me or mentioned from the dais the reduction of seats from 650 to 600 “which the Tories are going to do”.

I have bemoaned the lack of psephological nous in the party before but, really, some members seem to like to wallow in misery and fantasy.

It is true that the seat reduction as proposed was set to disadvantage us and Labour at the Tory benefit. That is a given. However time and events have moved on.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 29 Comments

The one thing missing from Tim Farron’s Commons speech on the refugee crisis

Yesterday Tim Farron spoke twice in the Commons. We covered his tribute to the Queen, but I want to look at his speech in the SNP’s Opposition Day debate on the humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.

Actually, the speech itself was very good and said all it needed to say. I’ve been pretty lucky this week. I’ve managed to switch on the tv twice and, by chance, catch two Liberal Democrat MPs speaking, Alistair in the emergency debate on Tuesday and Tim yesterday.

Tim spoke about his experience in Calais, about how the Government’s response to the crisis has damaged and continues to damage the UK’s standing in the world and he also had a go at them, reinforced by Tom Brake, for raiding the international development budget to pay for the refugees coming here.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 28 Comments
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